BY ARSHAD DOGAR
The media landscape has been changing so rapidly in the developed world that journalists working in developing countries also need to adopt those innovations.
Recently, I visited a barber’s shop in Pittsburgh for a haircut. As I introduced myself as a newspaper reporter, the barber laughed and asked, “Who purchases newspapers nowadays?” He said, “You can read any newspaper online and watch any news channel on your cell phone.”
During my stay in the U.S., I have seen media house staff and working journalists trying to find innovations to attract readers and viewers. They have been working madly to get maximum ‘likes,’ or comments and shares on their stories posted on social media and online editions. They have hired experts to launch and maintain smart phone apps for the readers of newspapers.
The changing demand has perturbed the owners of media houses and they have been fighting a war for survival. I have heard giant media house owners complain about the recent remarkable decline in the print industry and huge losses. Some U.S. newspapers have not given salary raises to their employees for eight years.
But have they stopped trying to lift up their declining industry? No, not at all!
They have been working day and night to find new solutions. I have seen journalists attending workshops, conferences and other activities to ponder the needs of citizens so to produce newspapers accordingly. I have also observed journalists always trying to find new ways to build capacity. I like their approach of sharing everything learned from such events with other colleagues.
One thing is clear, every newspaper has started online and broadcast media to cater to the needs of its readers and to overcome the financial crunch. The others need to start or lag behind.
As compared to the U.S., the reflexes of the print industry in Pakistan are very slow — resulting in downsizing of media employees in Pakistan. Most Pakistani citizens now have access to Internet, even in villages, and they want to read newspapers and watch news channels on their cell phones, laptops and computers.
Commercial interests of a media organization are also handled different in the U.S. as compared to Pakistan. For instance, a number of newspapers in Pakistan do not publish good stories if they are related to private companies just because of commercial purposes. However, if some private firm gives advertisements to the paper, then the newspaper carries stories about the company. The print industry needs to eliminate artificial walls between commercialism and journalism.
However, the situation is totally different here in the U.S.
As I started becoming familiar with different sections of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I got to know about news desks working only for the interest of readers — not for commercialism. For instance, the food department has been working intensively to tell people on a daily basis about new tastes, new stores and hotels in the region. Movies, arts, book, and culture critics have been striving hard to help people choose good stuff.
In Pakistan, a few print outlets have adopted new technology and have shifted themselves to online as well as broadcast. But the rest have been waiting for some miracle to change their fates. This has created a huge gulf within the industry. If the old traditional media do not start following new innovations, they will face huge losses — which will ultimately affect working journalists.
If someone does not try to bring new innovations, he will not be able to compete. I will term it a ‘do or die’ situation.
The owners of media houses need to create innovations in order to survive. And journalists — especially reporters — have to get expertise in online and digital world.
Long live media!